At least once a week, we get requests from our clients about link building and how it affects SEO on their websites.
Many are under the impression that the more links they have, the merrier:
While that may have been true back in the 1990’s, times have changed. Now, it’s all about link quality, not quantity. Put it simply, you must create a SEO link building strategy that works for you.
What you should not be doing, in terms of link building
The old chestnut that we relied upon for years, reciprocal links to any and all other websites, can actually do more harm than good. This method eventually led to the creation of “link farms”, which were essentially pages and entire websites built upon linking to others, for SEO ranking purposes.
This was one of the first things that Google put a stop to:
These days, your reciprocal links should be relevant to your website subject and placed within the context of your pages or articles. The days of a simple “links page” to any and all comers will get you very little attention from Google and may actually result in a penalty.
One of the older techniques that worked quite well was “guest blogging” where other people would write articles for your website or blog, benefiting from a link back to their own website. According to Google’s Matt Cutts’ article “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO“, he starts off by stating:
Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.
He continues with:
So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.
Hmm, so with all that being said, from someone at a top position at Google, you would think guest blogging is truly dead.
Yet, it is now 2015 and guest blogging still seems to be alive and thriving:
My takeaway from this is that knowing Google and it’s famous parade of animal algorithms, all of this could change at any time. So, if you’re going to engage in guest blogging, don’t bet the farm on it and diversify with other methods of link building.
What about PBN’s (private blog networks)?
What are private blog networks? Basically, they are other websites (preferably hosted on different hosting servers with non-shared IP addresses) that are used for the purpose of linking together, to provide “link juice” to another website. Typically, the method is to purchase an already established website from an online reseller that has a high page and/or domain authority. The higher the authority, the more powerful the “link juice”. Search Engine Watch posted an excellent article that details what private blog networks do and how they work.
Again, Google has clamped down on this method of getting links, or so they would have you believe. Some people, such as Spencer Haws of Niche Pursuits vows to never use private blog networks again. Yet, others swear than PBN’s are performing quite well, but perhaps that is because they haven’t been caught yet, flying perilously under Google’s radar. Either way, your tolerance for risk should determine whether or not you decide to use private blog networks.
A link building strategy that works
Tip: Think quality, not quantity
These days it’s all about producing quality content that engages your audience and provides useful information. Better to create several interesting, thought provoking blog posts or pages than to blast out dozens of keyword laden stories that no one wants to read.
Google has caught up with this shotgun approach:
Loading up a page with keywords in hopes of improving ranking and getting links from other websites is now a waste of time.
Focus on building your brand and authority. Your website URL should preferably contain keywords relevant to your business. Each page or post should contain wisely selected keywords in the title, and description meta tag. Don’t worry about the keywords meta tag as that has been obsolete for years now.
Also, do not “stuff” your content with keywords to the point of absurdity:
Google’s algorithms are now intelligent enough to pick up on artificially planted keywords. Write content naturally and don’t dwell too much on the keywords. A few good keyword phrases should be sufficient. Internal links are important so make sure to target some of the keywords in your new article to existing pages within your website. As an example, notice where my SEO keyword links to.
If your content is good, Google will pick up on that. So will other websites that may want to link to your valuable content.
Get the word out
So now you have created content but what do you do with it? This is where link building kicks up a notch. Do not make the mistake of just blasting your article all over social media and expect other sites to link to it.
Although social shares can indeed influence authority, they are not particularly influential for ranking.
You need to get a link or publish your content on websites with high domain authority. Although Matt Cutts of Google says guest blogging is dead, it still seems to work for many people. Again, I would be a bit conservative with this strategy and make it part of your link building campaign, not the sole method.
Where to find and get links on high domain authority sites
The first place to look is at your competitor’s links. First, you need to determine if the page linking to them has a high page authority.
There are toolbar add-ons that you can download for free and integrate into your browser that will display domain authority, etc. Once you have found some good, high domain authority sites to link to, contact them and request a link on their site.
Better yet, offer something of value to them such as a small write up about them on your own website, a social media share, etc. Do something to make yourself stand out and personable as opposed to a pasted in generic e-mail requesting a link.
Offer to send them an infographic, photo or video that might enhance a blog post on their website or blog. Givers gain so offer to help others out and they are more likely to reciprocate.
Perhaps even a phone call to the business you want to link with would be better, depending on the situation. You need to make yourself stand out among all the junk emails people receive every day.
Find a technique that works for you and use it:
If you’re not getting the word out, informing people about your website, you’re taking the “if you build it, they will come” approach. Most likely, they will not without some persuasion.
Another way to find websites to link with is by searching Google with something like “real estate” + inurl:links (if real estate is your business, if not substitute other words) or “boating” +inurl:useful resources” ,etc. You get the idea, so substitute your topic and experiment with variations of the searches after the inurl: part. This should serve up quite a list of websites that you can contact for a link building.
As above, install the SEOmoz browser extension and it will show you the domain authority level of the sites that come up in your search.
Last but not least, go ahead and create links on your own website, pointing to high domain authority websites. Google may pick up on this, by noticing that you’re linking to great quality sites, which might actually give you a bit of an advantage as well.